Sunday, 13 February 2011

Berne Convention

Ascalon Studios Inc. is a design firm specializing in public sculptures, monuments, memorials and stained-glass artworks throughout North America (title link). The picture shows David Ascalon's winning entry in an international design competition to create a Holocaust Memorial for the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg. Note the spiral of blocks around the column, representing the rusty barbed wire of Nazi concentration camps. The memorial was completed in 1994. A decade or so later the spiral developed flaws. So the Jewish Federation and the Pennsylvanian Department of Parks and Recreation decided it should be restored. The symbolically rusty spiral was replaced with stainless steel; David's name was removed from the memorial and the restorers scratched their own names into its surface. What a cheek! In 2010 David took the Parks Department and the Jewish Federation to court under the US Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA), which was enacted to conform to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (CLICK). So this case isn't limited to US law. It has world-wide significance. After amicable discussions, the parties agreed that David would remake the “barbed wire” spiral in highly durable rust-coloured steel and his name would be restored to the memorial. This case demonstrates that even when a work of art is sold, under the Berne Convention the artist retains rights on how it is treated and disposed of.


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